I know this year has been really challenging, difficult and worrying for a lot of you. I wanted to reach out to let you know what I’ve been working on, and how I'm trying to improve your year as much as I can, given the circumstances. I also wanted to update you on what I'm planning to do for you, for the rest of the year.
WORK DONE SO FAR
GETTING YOUR VOICES HEARD
I have had meetings with the Head of School every two weeks. I have used this space to raise the issues students have flagged with me. This included workload, communication from the University, organising grief counselling, work being set over the weekend with unrealistic deadlines, lack of equipment...the list goes on.
I made sure that all fourth-year students had the opportunity to meet with myself and the Head of School, to raise issues and questions directly. From these meetings, we have been able to set aside detailed action lists for the issues you have raised.
CONSUMABLE FEES SCRAPPED
Lots of you told me it was unfair to be charged for consumable fees when you couldn’t access the equipment, studio spaces, workshops and materials. I took this feedback to school and made sure these fees were scrapped for this year.
I fought on behalf of the School for the recognition that digital poverty exists in SBC in a different way than in other schools. On top of laptops, you needed sewing machines, mannequins, materials and other equipment. I made sure that the School purchased additional equipment to loan out to students, and will continue to fight for ease of hardship access for students who struggle to deal with the additional expenses.
Due to workshops and studio spaces being unavailable, I wanted to make sure you had access to study spaces and printers. I spoke with the library and managed to get opening times extended. After hearing from a large number of students that you were missing studio spaces, I tried to secure additional spaces within the local community. I followed this up with the Head of School but unfortunately, it wasn’t a viable option.
SBC PLANNING GROUP
We set up a planning group to make sure we’re aware of what’s going on in SBC, and planning what we can do to improve things. This brings key staff from across the Union, as well as your SBC MP, Anya, together to meet weekly. From this group, we’ve organised the Life Drawing Classes (which we hope to run more of!), escape rooms, the grief counselling, regular Tea@3s, the Vintage Clothes Fair and bring attention to feedback raised in other areas of the organisation.
VIRTUAL CHRISTMAS FAIR
We managed to successfully create a platform for 25 SBC students to share links to their small businesses. Due to the large uptake and positive responses from students, we are continuing to explore ways to create a permanent space for you to promote your side hustles.
I know that across the University students are raising issues with massive workloads. I’ve already put the wheels in motion on this by having meetings with members of the University Executive who have now made a University-wide commitment to limit the workload given as much as possible whilst still meeting your learning objectives. I will continue to ensure this is followed through on by schools.
We understand how frustrating it must be, not having access to workspaces. The most recent guidance from the University is that campus will be closed for the remainder of semester 2. Looking ahead, I will continue to raise, in any relevant meetings, that SBC students need to be prioritised, and allowed back onto campus, as soon as government restrictions allow.
Lots of students have raised anxieties about employability after Covid. We are working with your school and other relevant groups to put on a series of events with people in the industry so you can ask them questions and develop your own personal skills.
We have managed to get the School to ringfence money to fund a “Stand Out 2021” week of workshops to help you develop your own personal skills, providing you with the tools, confidence and self-promotion to set you up for your career journey after your time with us at Heriot-Watt. This is an SBC Student ONLY event series - sign up for sessions here!
None of this would have been possible without the hard work of your School Officers and Class Reps, so I wanted to say a huge thank you to all of you.
The feedback that you raise through the representation structure allows us to escalate your concerns to the most appropriate places, and really get your voices heard.
I will continue to fight for SBC students’ needs and help to provide more opportunities for you going forward. If there’s anything you feel I could be working on please reach out to me, or to your wonderful reps, and we’ll do everything we can.
Take care, stay safe and look after yourselves.
STUDENT UNION PRESIDENT